March 3, 2021
Dear member –

Yesterday Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order (GA-34) lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent, effective next Wednesday.

The Chamber commends government at all levels for their challenging job over the last year to balance public safety while working with the Chamber and others to keep our economy afloat. We’re confident no decision was made lightly, and the Chamber is pleased the government overreach is now removed and businesses can operate as they see fit.

While we applaud the Governor’s action, we continue to worry about a potential rise in COVID hospitalizations that could trigger another rollback on area businesses. The Chamber and its leadership continue to encourage all of us to do what we individually feel is appropriate. Our health system is still without ICU capacity and sits at Level 3: High Risk.

We encourage each of our members to enjoy the freedom to operate normally but to do so cautiously by doing what you feel is reasonable and necessary in order to remain free of mandated rollbacks that painfully impact our local economy and community.

In doing so, we look forward to the continued downward trend in both cases and hospitalizations so we can slowly resume normal operations while keeping ourselves and our families safe, and our businesses open and free of government mandated limitations.
Details on Governor Abbott’s order and what it means for your business can be found here.

Let’s continue to control what we can while doing what we do best as a business community.

President & CEO
Abilene Chamber of Commerce
The Abilene Sports Alliance is offering $10,000 in scholarships to graduating student athletes: One male and one female athlete from Abilene Christian, Abilene, Cooper, and Wylie high schools will receive this award.
Applications may be picked up in the high school Counselor’s office, from the Athletic Coordinator/Director at each campus or downloaded here. The completed application must be turned in to the campus Athletic Coordinator/Director by April 8.
During the last 16 years, the Sports Alliance has hosted fundraisers to support 130 student athletes with $138,500 awarded in scholarships. The Running to 2021 5K on Jan. 2 was the latest successful venture and is planned to be an annual event.
The Sports Alliance is a committee under the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau, an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce. The Sports Alliance was created to generate revenue to the local economy through sporting events. The group’s mission is to increase existing tournaments and create new ones, support an enthusiastic volunteer base and offer scholarships to support local athletic programs.
Yesterday, your Abilene Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual 2021 Economic Outlook aimed to give local businesses and industries a forecast on what to expect for this year. The virtual event started with a look back at how various sectors of our local economy have handled the unique economic situation the pandemic created. Thank you to Jon Loudermilk, Homes By Design; Mike Fernandez, Texas National Bank; Jessica Adams, Vagabond Pizza; Nathan Lowry, Big Country Title; David Smith, America's SBDC at Texas Tech; and Calvin Davis, U.S. Small Business Administration for serving as our local panel of experts.
To purchase a recording of the event featuring former Chief Economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Dr, Mark Dotzour, contact Stephanie Burke here.

Thank you to our sponsors who made the event possible: America’s SBDC at Texas Tech; Big Country Title; Homes by Design; Texas National Bank; Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company; Lawrence Hall Abilene; Abilene Industrial Foundation; Development Corporation of Abilene.
The Small Business Administration has some key changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which will be available for a limited amount of time to ensure America’s smallest businesses get exclusive access. If you are a small business owner with 20 employees or less, or are self-employed; there is new information for you. 

Please join us for a series of webinars hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Public Private Strategies Institute, & other stakeholders to hear about:
  • What steps you can take now to take advantage of this special opportunity, which closes at 5:00 P.M. EST, Tuesday, March 9th, 2021.
  • Additional changes and recent policy announcements made by Biden-Harris Administration
  • Have your questions answered by SBA Leadership

Mar. 3, 12:30 p.m. ET, Women Business Owners, Click here to register.
Mar. 4, 3:00 p.m. ET, Asian-American + Pacific Islander, Native American + Tribal Small Business Owners; Click here to register.
Mar. 5, 1:00 p.m. ET,  Black + African-American Small Business Owners, Click here to register.
Mar. 5, 3:00 p.m. ET, Hispanic Small Business Owners, Click here to register.
Mar. 6, 2:00 p.m. ET, Veterans, Self-Employed Business Owners, Click here to register.
Mar. 8, 3:00 p.m. ET, LGTBQ Business Owners, Youth Entrepreneurs, Restaurant Owners, Click here to register.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) delayed the setting of the employer’s unemployment insurance tax rates to allow for more time for ongoing legislative efforts and the continuing economic recovery to play out. This is part of our continuing efforts to pursue all options to keep the 2021 tax rates as low as possible for Texas employers. Last week, Governor Greg Abbott suspended a section of the Texas Labor Code which paved the way for the TWC decision. Governor Abbott’s suspension allows for postponement of the setting of tax rates until July 2021.

Governor Abbott suspended Section 204.048 of the Texas Labor Code, which set deadlines for a small subset of employers who make voluntary contributions into the UI tax system. The Commissioners in turn aligned TWC Policy with that decision.
Employer-paid UI taxes replenish the Texas Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which provides temporary income for Texas workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. In normal years, TWC calculates experience-rated employers’ tax rates as of October 1 to be effective for the following calendar year, and mails notices of the rates to employers.

It is vital that we take the proper time to get this right for our Texas employers. Thank you all for your patience and remember my office is here for you if you have any questions. 
For the full press release click here.
You don't want to miss these upcoming events for
your business.

MARCH 3 WAKE UP WEDNESDAY SPONSORED BY TOLAR SYSTEMS, INC. Before you start your day, tune in from your at-home office or office as we meet to start the month on a positive note making business connections at Wake Up Wednesday sponsored by Tolar Systems Inc. Register here.

MARCH 3 GOVERNOR'S SMALL BUSINESS WEBINAR Join us for the next Governor's Small Business Webinar for an update on the new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding and other recovery resources through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Our panel of experts will provide up-to-date details on the PPP application process, loan forgiveness and assistance available to Texas small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and/or the recent severe winter storms. The virtual event will also feature a live Q&A with our expert panel, including senior executives from the SBA and Small Business Development Centers. Register here.

MARCH 4 CYBERSECURITY FOR SMALL BUSINESS Join the Abilene Chamber, the Abilene Industrial Foundation - Develop Abilene, and America's SBDC at Texas Tech for the fundamentals on cybersecurity for your small business. This "Cybersecurity for small business: The Fundamentals" webinar is intended to share the "how to's" of cybersecurity as recommended by NIST, the National Institute of Standard's and Technology. You, your team, your company or community group will learn the steps for understanding cybersecurity risks and the risks and the steps to mitigate them. Register here.

MARCH 5 FEDERAL HUBZONE OVERVIEW Are you in a HUBZone? Learn how to find out and what it means if you want to sell your product or service to the U. S. Government! Register here.

MARCH 18 BUSINESS BEFORE AFTER HOURS SPONSORED BY TOLAR SYSTEMS, INC. Monthly evening social business networking event. Open to sponsor employees and guests, Chamber members and prospective members. Features a short presentation and update on Chamber activities. Register here.

MARCH 24 SECURITY AWARENESS Did you know your team is your first line of defense when it comes to your business’s cybersecurity? Learn how to boost your defenses by training your team on Security Awareness. This virtual webinar is free and open to the public. Register here.

MARCH 25 & 26, APRIL 1 & 2 ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPY VIRTUAL TRAINING SERIES The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission are leading this series on development training suited for large and small organizations from any discipline with limited development staff. They will highlight the best practices while facilitating dynamic group interactions to help attendees build and strengthen their fundraising "tool-kit" so they can more effectively and sustainably achieve their mission. Click Here to learn more and Click Here to Register Now.